Media outlets fell for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's Iowa caucus strategy by calling the presidential hopeful "the unofficial winner" in Iowa and declaring his third place finish a victory for his campaign.
Vanity Fair's Evgenia Peretz wrote a glowing cover story on Megyn Kelly for the February edition of the magazine, praising her as "the brightest star at Fox News" and even a "feminist icon of sorts." Nearly a month later, Peretz followed up with some of the less laudatory aspects of Kelly's right-wing rhetoric that was left out of the original piece, noting that Kelly and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump "have more in common than you think" and that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own."
Peretz's original profile was the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that similarly describe Kelly as someone who "buck[s] the conservative party line" while often ignoring her history of problematic coverage. One such example is how Kelly has obsessed about issues surrounding race, including the New Black Panther Party, to which she devoted "45 segments and 3.5 hours to hyping politically motivated and completely discredited allegations" during a two-week stretch of time. Kelly's history of inflammatory remarks about minorities, such as calling a 14-year-old black girl who was violently manhandled by a police officer "no saint either," has been well documented.
In the midst of Donald Trump dropping out of Fox's January 28 Republican debate over Kelly's role as a moderator, Peretz penned another piece: "Megyn Kelly And Donald Trump Have More In Common Than You Think." In a sharp contrast, Peretz includes what was left out of the original profile, that "Kelly, like Trump, is not above playing to her audience's fears on dog-whistle topics when it suits her." As an example, Peretz writes that she questioned Kelly over the Black Lives Matter movement during her original interview, whose protesters Kelly called "obviously beyond the bounds of decency." This was not published in Peretz's high-profile cover story. Peretz also acknowledges what was inadvertently apparent in her original piece, that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox":
As I wrote in my cover profile about her, Kelly is seeking to accomplish something far greater with her career than simply staring down Trump: she would like to become an influential and sought-after interview host, akin to Charlie Rose, or even Oprah Winfrey. To pull that off, she has strived to prove she can handle our thorniest national issues with the nuance and measure that they require, and not just her trademark "toughness." Yet Kelly, like Trump, is not above playing to her audience's fears on dog-whistle topics when it suits her.
One of these topics--the Black Lives Matter movement--came up during the course of our interview for my piece. Kelly's perspective on the the issue was pointedly firm. "They're going out there and yelling in the cop's face 'Pigs in a blanket. Fry 'em like bacon.' It's obviously beyond the bounds of decency," she said of the protestors. "You don't want to say that, that's your business. If you think that's not an Edward R. Murrow moment, great. Good for you. Enjoy being that anchor. I'm a different kind of anchor." It seemed like classic Kelly defiance, but fair enough. There is a radical component to any protest movement, and reasonable people can debate how much media attention should be given to the fringe.
Kelly has chided guests for "adding to the hate," but in these moments, her talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox.
If Kelly truly wants to improve the level of discourse in this country, to elevate the conversation and indeed lay claim to the mantle of Rose or Winfrey, tomorrow night's debate--Trump or no Trump--is a good place to start. Indeed, Kelly told me that she has a "spiritual side," under-utilized at Fox, that she would like to dig into in the future. "I'm not talking about self-help exactly, but just the improvement of one's life. Those segments are interesting to me, how to improve one's own life and our world and our children's world." Perhaps she can tap into that.
William D. Cohan wrote a January Vanity Fair profile of Huma Abedin, longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, characterizing her as "every bit unknown to the general public as her boss is world-famous." Cohan chose to introduce Abedin to the magazine's readers by regurgitating a series of right-wing attacks that have previously been widely covered or discredited by other journalists -- including the ridiculous and offensive question of whether she might have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
A Media Matters analysis breaks down the profile's topics of discussion by the numbers.
Immediately after writing that "for all her proximity to the white-hot center of American politics, Abedin is every bit as unknown to the general public as her boss is world famous," Cohan delves into Abedin's roots in a section called "Follow The Faith."
After half a paragraph describing her birth and parents, the section changes course to discuss what he describes as "right-wing screeds" that link Abedin and her family to terrorist sympathizers and the Muslim Brotherhood. These claims are a spider-web of guilt by association, one being that a high-ranking Saudi government insider who backed her father when he founded a Muslim think tank in 1978 (Abedin's father died in 1993) is a "'major' figure in the Muslim Brotherhood":
Google Abdullah Omar Nasseef, the man who set up the Abedins in Jidda, and a host of right-wing screeds pop up. Though he is a high-ranking insider in the Saudi government and sits on the king's Shura Council, there are claims that Nasseef once had ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda -- a charge that he has denied through a spokesman -- and that he remains a "major" figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. In his early years as the patron of the Abedins' journal, Nasseef was the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, which Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the "Blind Sheik," Omar Abdel Rahman, in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, claims "has long been the Muslim Brotherhood's principal vehicle for the international propagation of Islamic supremacist ideology."
Cohan outlines the allegations with quotes from right-wing columnist Andrew McCarthy, who is identified only as a "former assistant U.S. attorney" with "something of a personal crusade on the question of the Abedin family's purported connections."
Although Cohan describes some of the allegations as "right-wing hysteria" and provides quotes from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and the Clinton campaign denouncing the attacks, Cohan takes no position on the claims.
In fact, everyone from the Department of Homeland Security to former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio to former GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (R-MI) has denounced the attacks as false and despicable.
And yet, that's the first thing Cohan wants you to know about the allegedly "unknown" Abedin.
After discussing whether or not she has ties to terrorism, Cohan dedicates 309 words of Abedin's profile to allege that the Clinton campaign attempts to silence people from talking about her. The profile accuses the Clinton campaign of putting "the fear of God into many who might speak about [Abedin]."
This claim appears to come in part from an anonymous source, described vaguely as "one longtime Clinton observer," who is quoted saying, "Everyone's afraid to comment for fear that they'll be misquoted ... You can't imagine the paranoia." As Huffington Post Senior Politics Editor Sam Stein noted, "that could be, oh, a few million people."
Cohan creates a no-win scenario for Abedin, saying Clinton supporters and surrogates "have gone mute on the subject of Huma Abedin" and that the ones who do talk "stick close to the prescribed script." When he does quote Clinton supporters, their glowing remarks are undermined by Cohan's implications that they cannot speak honestly about her:
There is a long list of usually chatty Clinton surrogates and supporters who have gone mute on the subject of Huma Abedin. The ones who didn't get the memo, or choose to ignore it, stick close to the prescribed script. Michael Feldman, the managing director of the Glover Park Group, a communications consulting firm, says that after 20 years Abedin has become part of the "institutional memory" and now occupies "a really important and unique place in an organization." Bob Barnett, the lawyer who brokered the Clintons' multi-million-dollar book deals, says Huma is "now one of the key glues that holds Clintonworld together.... She knows everyone and everyone knows her. She knows their strengths. She knows their weaknesses. She knows the roles they've played, and that history is priceless to a person in public life." "Huma is a terrific leader. She's multifaceted, has a great strategic sense, and she's a wonderful colleague. She's an integral part of the team, and her competence is only exceeded by her humility," says Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
Vanity Fair's profile then turns to Abedin's relationship with her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, focusing primarily on a 2011 scandal where Weiner "mistakenly tweeted a photograph of his erection." This is, in fact, something for which Abedin is not remotely "unknown to the general public" -- the story received widespread attention when it broke. The article itself details how the scandal was covered in a New York Times Magazine cover story.
Once again relying on an anonymous source to say something nasty for him, Cohan turns to a "longtime State Department official" who suggests Abedin is to blame for her husband's scandal because she worked too much:
One longtime State Department official says that inside Foggy Bottom some people's initial reaction was that Abedin might have driven Weiner to sexting because she "was never around. She gave so much to Hillary Clinton, what did she have left for him? It was politically incorrect, but we did wonder."
Right-wing news outlet Washington Free Beacon seized on this quote to again blame Abedin and report that "some Clinton employees thought Huma's work ethic drove Weiner into 2011 sexting scandal."
Much of the remainder of Cohan's profile is 1,446 words detailing "Clintonworld's" role in helping Abedin financially after her husband's scandal and accusations by Senator Chuck Grassley that she was overcompensated for her time as a State Department employee and that her consulting work was filled with conflicts of interest. All of this territory has been well-trod by other reporters.
Aside from a final anecdote about Abedin discussing wall lamps with Chelsea Clinton, Cohan concludes his profile with an open-ended question on whether Abedin "becomes a liability to Hillary" and that whether she was "embroiled in allegations of conflicts of interest, obtaining patronage jobs, or misrepresenting time worked remains to be seen":
Whether it's palatable for the vice-chairman of Hillary's presidential campaign to be embroiled in allegations of conflicts of interest, obtaining patronage jobs, or misrepresenting time worked remains to be seen. Asked if at some point Huma becomes a liability to Hillary, the long-term Clinton insider replies, "It's like anything else. I don't think so, but you know I don't have any idea. Hillary is very loyal, but she's obviously pragmatic."
Before Cohan's profile pivoted to more than 3,000 words laying out unsubstantiated controversies about Abedin promoted by conservatives and whether they will harm Hillary Clinton's campaign, he began his profile with 525 words discussing what Abedin actually does.
Cohan's description of Abedin's job is comprised of mostly vague descriptions: "Whatever the title, the job she performs for Hillary has always been essentially the same: confessor, confidante, and constant companion." He seems completely uninterested in what Abedin has actually done as a deputy chief of staff at State or as vice-chair of Clinton's presidential campaign.
Instead, Cohan relies on three brief anecdotes to summarize her work for Clinton. Two of Cohan's anecdotes based on Clinton's publicly-released emails portray her as little more than a glorified assistant. The final anecdote calls her Clinton's "stand-in" at campaign events:
"I'm not sure Hillary could walk out the door without Huma," Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald told Vogue's Rebecca Johnson eight years ago. "She's a little like Radar on*M*A*S*H. If the air-conditioning is too cold, Huma is there with the shawl. She's always thinking three steps ahead of Hillary." It's still true today. Nothing Hillary-related is too big or too small for Abedin's purview. Take, for example, the secretary of state's December 2009 struggle to get a faxed document:
Abedin: Can you hang up the fax line? They will call again and try fax.
Clinton: I thought it was supposed to be off hook to work?
Abedin: Yes, but hang up one more time. So they can reestablish the line.
Clinton: I did.
Abedin: Just pick up phone and hang it up. And leave it hung up.
Clinton: I've done it twice now. Still nothing.
By fixating on a series of conservative attacks on Huma Abedin, Cohan leaves Vanity Fair readers with little information about Abedin's career. Instead, the reader is left with puzzling information about unsubstantiated smears from conservatives that she may be an embezzling, terrorist-connected Clinton aide whose hard work led her husband to seek out other women.
Vanity Fair's new profile of Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that extol Kelly as the "brightest star at Fox News" while underplaying her bigotry and right-wing chicanery. However, buried in the article is the fact that her show, The Kelly File, is little more than a shill for conservative misinformation not unlike her primetime cohorts on the network.
Evgenia Peretz lionized Megyn Kelly in the glowing January 4 profile, calling her a "feminist icon of sorts," and suggesting her "star power" is similar to that of Julia Roberts. (Peretz even highlighted Kelly's husband comparing her to "Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey," and "Grace Kelly").
But buried amid the praise, Peretz admitted exactly what makes Megyn Kelly so dangerous: though Kelly bills her show "as a 'news' show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, [it] is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time." In other words, beneath Kelly's veneer of credibility lies the same partisan misinformation typical of the network:
The Kelly File, which Kelly bills as a "news" show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time. Some recurring themes are political correctness run amok, the left-wing slant of the mainstream media, and the question of Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness. (Hint: "She's lying! She's absolutely lying!," says the mother of one of the Benghazi victims in a teaser.) Not so infrequently, the right-of-center axis roams into Hannity territory, like a recurring bit on "Ahmed, the clock boy," who was mistakenly arrested after school officials thought he might be building a bomb--and then got invited to the White House. Not only was the clock really lame, The Kelly File told us, "just wait until you see what we found on his father's Facebook page." (Supposedly it called 9/11 an American hoax to encourage a war against Islam.) A go-to guest on the subject of race and law enforcement is Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced race-baiting policeman from the O. J. Simpson trial.
Even more alarming is the fact that prominent journalists not only praise Kelly, but also treat her as a credible reporter. Peretz noted praise for Kelly from "[v]eteran newswoman Katie Couric," former primetime host for CNN Campbell Brown, and former chief White House correspondent for CNN, Jessica Yellin, all applauding Kelly's "uncanny charm" and "dogged interviewing skills."
Extolling Kelly for her ability to "Unnerv[e] would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties," Peretz pointed to a few of Kelly's famous deviations from the typical Fox rhetoric -- so-called "Megyn moments" that call out a bit of right-wing nonsense -- including her 2016 Republican presidential primary debate takedown of Donald Trump's sexism, her 2012 election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama, and most infamously, her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace.
However, as Media Matters pointed out when her show was announced in 2013, for each of Kelly's "Megyn moments" there is an example of Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up conservative misinformation as "news":
Megyn Kelly, is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all. She can have a great moment chiding Fox colleagues Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for sexism, only to turn around and push the New Black Panthers scandal as something serious. Megyn Kelly can cover gay rights in a way that is occasionally not abominable, and then push Benghazi falsehoods that have long been debunked. Megyn Kelly will rebuke Dick Morris and Karl Rove, but then hosts a climate change denier during the president's climate address. Kelly smacked down Mike Gallagher on family leave, but she also defended Newt Gingrich's bizarre suggestion that schools should use children as janitors. The examples go on and on -- but the key for Fox is that her positive moments always get more press than her more dishonest moments.
And thanks in part to Vanity Fair's latest profile, it appears they will continue to do so.
After acknowledging that there is no "proof of post-presidential sexual indiscretions" by former President Bill Clinton, Vanity Fair's Todd S. Purdum repeatedly used anonymous sources to suggest that "tabloid speculation and Internet intimations" about supposed "indiscretions" are true.